Guan Manyu, chairman of China Zhejiang Construction Group (H.K.) Ltd and its subsidiary CR Construction Co Ltd. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The introduction of non-local workers may help to complete construction projects on schedule and further meet Hong Kong’s infrastructure needs in the coming years as the industry is understaffed against the backdrop of post-pandemic recovery, a local construction company executive said.
Hong Kong’s construction industry has rebounded significantly this year. Sixty percent of small and medium-sized enterprises in the sector said their turnover had returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, marking a revival at the most vigorous pace among the 11 major industries, the Standard Chartered Hong Kong SME Leading Business Index Q2 released on April 25 revealed.
These technologies, however, are primarily employed to monitor project progress and quality, or to play a role in identifying risks and addressing them in advance, which can improve supervisory efficiency, but may fail to fully make up for the shortage in manpower
However, manpower issues are presenting a challenge amid the strong revival. According to a report released by the Construction Industry Council in February, the industry will see a shortage of 10,000 workers this year, with the figure expected to reach 40,000 by 2027.
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China Zhejiang Construction Group (H.K.) Ltd and its subsidiary CR Construction Co Ltd, which have been deeply embedded in Hong Kong’s construction industry for decades, are encountering labor-shortage challenges amid the recovery and are facing intense competition for talents and labor.
The enterprise scooped the Kai Tak Development project in December 2022, which covers a total gross floor area of 181,700 square meters, and includes three blocks of 27-storey public rental housing and two blocks of 28-storey subsidized housing for sale.
“It is estimated that there will be more than 2,000 workers on the building site at peak per day as the project advances,” Guan Manyu, chairman of the company, said in an interview with China Daily.
In addition to residential projects, the company is also involved in the construction of university dormitories, laboratories, and data centers for telecommunication giants such as China Unicom and Global Data Solutions Limited.
Guan said the construction of data centers is in its honeymoon period in Hong Kong. Also, with the continuous increase in infrastructure and public housing construction expected in the near future, the demand for experienced building workers will rise correspondingly. He added that Hong Kong, as an international financial, information and talent center, is among the top choices for global telecom operators, given its accessible and ample resources. Meanwhile, the Web 3.0 concept launched by the Hong Kong SAR government will also play a role in driving global data centers to the city.
The decade-long manpower issue has become more perceptible than ever amid the recent industry rebound and booming market demand. The shortage of construction workers and the ageing construction workforce, with an average age of over 50, not only increases the workload per capita, but also raises the potential for safety hazards and schedule delays, the executive said.
According to Guan, the company introduced innovative technologies such as the Smart Site Safety System and Building Information Modeling (BIM) as part of its efforts to offset the underlying impact of possible emergencies and improve management effectiveness.
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These technologies, however, are primarily employed to monitor project progress and quality, or to play a role in identifying risks and addressing them in advance, which can improve supervisory efficiency, but may fail to fully make up for the shortage in manpower.
In recent days, the issue of labor importation has been rising on the agenda for both the Hong Kong government and the construction industry. But when, how, and how many non-local workers will be brought in is still under discussion.
Guan, taking a practical viewpoint, mentioned the importance of training, saying it is expected to take some time to train experienced workers in the construction industry’s rules and standards in Hong Kong. Once relevant policies are in place, imported workers will play a timely role in alleviating the shortage of workers in the sector.